The more things change, the more they remain the same — in a nutshell, that’s what happened again on Election Day.
Holley Carnright, after a surprisingly easy (60 percent) win over challenger Jonathan Sennett, will be back for four more years. Sennett, who believed he was jobbed in 2007 when Democrats split their votes between him and Vince Bradley Jr., actually lost ground this time around.
County Executive Mike Hein can’t be too pleased with the almost 26,000 votes he polled even though it was 5,000 more than Carnright’s total. Three years ago, in a presidential year, Democrat Hein racked up more than 45,000 votes. Given the drop-off in off-years, 30,000 would have been respectable. By the same token, Hein, running unopposed, has made some difficult decisions as executive that alienated him with labor and senior citizens, two huge voting blocks.
Some would argue that one vote in an uncontested election is plenty, but that’s not how politicians look at it. Even unopposed, they like to keep their vote totals up, especially is they have future political ambitions.
Republicans barely hung on to their majority in the county legislature, taking 12 of 23 seats in extremely light voting. In Gardiner, comeback kid Tracey Bartels scored a 130-vote win over Jack Hayes. Winners averaged 1,100 votes, not much considering there were about 4,700 voters in each district.
Around the towns, six-term Saugerties Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel may have simply outworn his welcome. Village trustee Kelly Myers showed the insurance man the door in what was a Republican year in Sawyertown.
In Kingston, Democrat Shayne Gallo’s 56 percent win over Republican Ron Polacco for mayor didn’t come as a surprise, given the enrollment turnout at fewer than 50 percent was less than robust. Gallo will undoubtedly learn that the easy part is now over.
Some thought Republican challenger Joe Marchetti might pull an upset over two-term alderman at-large Jim Noble, but in the end it wasn’t even close.
Noble, for his part, will have his hands full next year, what with six new aldermen and a rookie mayor.
Hats off to two newcomers. Debbie Brown, after being denied the Republican nomination, prevailed on the Conservative and New Beginnings lines over Democrat John Simek. Democrats enjoy a better than 2-1 advantage in the 9th Ward.
Twenty-something Nate Horowitz broke through against old-timer Charlie Landi in the Third Ward, proof that anything can happen in an election.
If scrambled eggs and sausage were bricks and mortar, Dean Gitter’s Resort at Belleayre would have risen in the Shandaken wilds a long time ago.
Gitter can’t blame the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce for what are now more than a dozen years of water under the bridge since he first submitted plans for the mega-development back in ’99. The group’s monthly breakfast next Tuesday will be Gitter’s sixth, a record second only to that of U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, in office since 1975.
Gitter, 76, has grown long in the tooth as one regulatory agency after another issued demands for review, revision and public hearings of what had started out as a project about twice the size of what is now envisioned. While nary a shovel of earth has been turned, except for test borings, an agreement to transfer 1,250 acres of land from developers to the state four years ago was seen as a breakthrough. That it has taken four years to finalize a relatively uncomplicated real estate transaction speaks to the history of the project.
Gitter says he never gave hope the project would be built, but worried he might not live to see the day.
Question: Can Gitter survive six more breakfasts?
After the ball
I don’t know who said freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one, but the fact is newspaper owners, publishers and editors do have a good deal of discretion about what gets published and from whom. Some call it “selling newspapers,” others call it discrimination. The economic reality is papers that run in the red don’t run for long. Space is limited and increasingly expensive. And while we’re all supposed to be equal in a democratic society, some are more equal than others, among them those who actually have a chance to win an election.
Take the case of Steve Ladin, minor party candidate for mayor in Kingston this year. Ladin, a non-enrolled voter running on his own Red Dog Party line, is challenging the two major-party contenders and a Conservative Party nominee.
Ladin’s dogged campaign reminds me of the time former Kingston High dean of discipline Carl Bell campaigned for alderman with his dog Bailey. Voters, some of whom may have served long stretches of detention at the school under the dreaded dean, loved Bailey. Bell they loved less.
In some newsrooms — ours, and apparently the Kingston daily’s — serious, sometimes heated discussions took place over whether Ladin, a hopeless candidate, should be given equal space with those with a real chance to win. One side said that since Ladin was on the ballot, he deserved equal treatment. The other — dubbed “elitist” — took the position that since Ladin might get 3 percent of the vote at best, he should get commensurate coverage. Giving him equal time would dilute coverage of the two main contenders, one of whom will be mayor next year.
That dynamic played out in two of the four ways between the candidates I attended last season. I came away wishing I’d learned more from the majors and less from the minors.
This doesn’t mean I support institutional politics or felt that independent candidacies should be ignored. Far from it.
There is, however flawed and rigged in favor of the establishment, a process for getting on the ballot. Might Ladin have better served his candidacy by challenging that system at caucus and in a primary? Maybe next time.
As an afterthought, Ladin should be glad his mother didn’t name him Ben.
We get letters
Most papers print as many letters to the editor as space permits — barring duplication — the reason being that such missives represent “the voice of the people,” or in modern times, the social network. Nowadays, letters via the Internet can fly back and forth at the speed of fingers.
Letters of support of candidates — many, no doubt, promulgated by the candidates themselves — clog up the opinion pages during campaign season. Readers who follow these things eventually pick up the patterns.
There are limits, however. Some papers actually print letters from the candidates themselves heralding their own virtues. Were I a candidate, I would be mortified, but then most candidates have little shame over matters of self-indulgence.
Papers, I would hope, would be more discriminating next season.
Farewell to Andy
For most of us, Andy Rooney was the curmudgeonly whiner who closed 60 Minutes on Sunday nights, but to Herb Shultz of Kingston, he was a schoolmate and lifelong friend. Rooney, 92, died last week only a few weeks after signing off as a “regular” (as he put it) on 60 Minutes.
Shultz, 93 and in poor health, remembers his friend and his family fondly. Both were combat correspondents during the war — Shultz as a Marine in the Pacific, Rooney with Stars and Stripes in the European Theater. Rooney maintained a summer home in the capital region. Shultz lived most of life in Kingston, where he was an executive for the Kingston Coal Company. He and his late wife Barbara (known as Bolly) were famous for handing out Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins on Halloween and keeping record of every kid who came calling.
The two old-timers maintained regular contact over the years, Herb said, either by phone or at the occasional lunch in New York City. Herb invited Andy to speak at a Boys and Girls Club fundraiser about three years ago, but illness forced a cancellation.
Herb was thrilled when his St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. A few weeks later he suffered the passing of his friend.
“You play the cards you’re dealt,” he told me. The Cards, too.